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The impact of high and growing government debt on economic growth: an empirical investigation for the euro area

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  • Checherita-Westphal, Cristina
  • Rother, Philipp

Abstract

This paper investigates the average impact of government debt on per-capita GDP growth in twelve euro area countries over a period of about 40 years starting in 1970. It finds a non-linear impact of debt on growth with a turning point—beyond which the government debt-to-GDP ratio has a deleterious impact on long-term growth—at about 90-100% of GDP. Confidence intervals for the debt turning point suggest that the negative growth effect of high debt may start already from levels of around 70-80% of GDP, which calls for even more prudent indebtedness policies. At the same time, there is evidence that the annual change of the public debt ratio and the budget deficit-to-GDP ratio are negatively and linearly associated with per-capita GDP growth. The channels through which government debt (level or change) is found to have an impact on the economic growth rate are: (i) private saving; (ii) public investment; (iii) total factor productivity (TFP) and (iv) sovereign long-term nominal and real interest rates. From a policy perspective, the results provide additional arguments for debt reduction to support longer-term economic growth prospects. JEL Classification: H63, O40, E62, E43

Suggested Citation

  • Checherita-Westphal, Cristina & Rother, Philipp, 2010. "The impact of high and growing government debt on economic growth: an empirical investigation for the euro area," Working Paper Series 1237, European Central Bank.
  • Handle: RePEc:ecb:ecbwps:20101237
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    References listed on IDEAS

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    1. Elmendorf, Douglas W. & Gregory Mankiw, N., 1999. "Government debt," Handbook of Macroeconomics,in: J. B. Taylor & M. Woodford (ed.), Handbook of Macroeconomics, edition 1, volume 1, chapter 25, pages 1615-1669 Elsevier.
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    More about this item

    Keywords

    Economic Growth; Fiscal Policy; public debt; sovereign long-term interest rates;

    JEL classification:

    • H63 - Public Economics - - National Budget, Deficit, and Debt - - - Debt; Debt Management; Sovereign Debt
    • O40 - Economic Development, Innovation, Technological Change, and Growth - - Economic Growth and Aggregate Productivity - - - General
    • E62 - Macroeconomics and Monetary Economics - - Macroeconomic Policy, Macroeconomic Aspects of Public Finance, and General Outlook - - - Fiscal Policy
    • E43 - Macroeconomics and Monetary Economics - - Money and Interest Rates - - - Interest Rates: Determination, Term Structure, and Effects

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